10:03pm Wednesday 19th February 2014
WALES boss Warren Gatland says that his under-fire team are playing for their World Cup dreams when they line up against France tomorrow evening.
They may have won successive Six Nations crowns but the pressure is on Wales at the Millennium Stadium following a woeful display against Ireland.
Gatland's men have copped an awful lot of flak after being dismantled 26-3 in Dublin but the head coach has refused to ring the changes with scrum-half Mike Phillips the only high profile casualty.
The New Zealander expects his charges to repay his faith against Les Bleus – and if they don't he says he won't be afraid to wield the axe ahead of next year's World Cup.
"I've had conversations with a couple of players where I've said that performance (against Ireland) was not what we expect and was not good enough," he said.
"They are aware of that and hopefully they will respond because it's not just important for us in terms of this competition, for a lot of those players they have got to start thinking about the next 12 months and the World Cup.
"If they don't play well on Friday night it could be the last time that they play for Wales."
In truth only a disastrous showing would lead to that being the case and it would seem to be Gatland being melodramatic.
But the likes of Gethin Jenkins, Adam Jones and Dan Lydiate – who previously were shoo-ins – were sweating when their boss revealed his line-up.
"There's a chance to put the disappointment behind us and for players that have been good for us to redeem themselves," said Gatland.
"As a pack we just didn't front up," he continued. "I am sure they will make amends for that on Friday night."
Phillips' spot goes to Ospreys scrum-half Rhys Webb, lock Luke Charteris comes in for Newport Gwent Dragons skipper Andrew Coombs and Liam Williams replaces Scott Williams with George North shifting from wing to centre.
"We weren't happy with Mike's performance against Ireland, and we just felt it was an opportunity for Rhys," said Gatland. "He (Phillips) probably just got a little bit confrontational with one on one with Conor Murray.
"It is probably an opportunity for him to reflect on his performance, which is why we have put him on the bench and given Rhys a chance.
"It is important we give someone else an opportunity in that position to stake a claim, and also give us some depth in that role as well. He (Phillips) always responds well to a challenge."
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), George North (Northampton Saints), Jamie Roberts (Racing Metro), Liam Williams (Scarlets), Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Rhys Webb (Ospreys), Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Richard Hibbard (Ospreys), Adam Jones (Ospreys), Luke Charteris (Perpignan), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Dan Lydiate (Racing Metro), Sam Warburton (captain, Cardiff Blues), Taulupe Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).
Replacements: Ken Owens (Scarlets), Paul James (Bath Rugby), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets), Jake Ball (Scarlets), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Mike Phillips (Racing Metro), Dan Biggar (Ospreys), James Hook (Perpignan).
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